September 11, 2020
IN THE LOOP
The latest from the folks across the street from the Capitol

From Paddi's Desk

I recently read an article that said the Tuesday after Labor Day is traditionally the busiest day of the year for business calls. Wow, that was so true this past week at Sullivan & LeShane!

From calls from clients working on projects to candidates running for office, legislative and administrative staffers looking for details on a number of items and even the media seeking leads for stories---things were hopping this week.

The Capitol and state offices are still closed to the public and almost all employees, only those in senior leadership roles or considered essential are in the buildings. Most days the streets here in Hartford are seemingly empty, but there does appear to be an uptick in foot traffic in the late afternoons-especially on Wednesdays now that the Bushnell Park Foundation is hosting "Picnic in the Park" events.

Speaking of Wednesday and traffic, Capitol Ave. did see a rare day of increased street traffic as one of the largest rallies of the year brought athletes, coaches and parents to the Capitol's doorstep. The large crowd pleaded with the Governor to let high school sports teams play this fall. The Governor is still holding firm on his decision to keep students in the "real" classrooms, allowing them to have meaningful, face-to-face interactions with their teachers and peers. Thus far schools have not caused a substantial rise in positive COVID-19 tests and the nursing home situation appears under control.

Tuesday and Thursday were busy days in the Zoom realm, as we got to watch two public forums on Eversource's electric rate increase and storm management. It's amazing the dialogue remains at such a fierce level of anger over what happened. Legislators are geared up to make significant changes during an upcoming, but tentative, special session and the 2021 session starting in January.

On the election side we're seeing far more socially distanced, in-person fundraisers-and I have to say, many of us are enjoying being able to finally catch up with folks we haven't seen since March. From Milford to Lakeville, Newington and Manchester, legislators are grouping together to make the events easy breezy and fun to attend.

There's still no word on how the legislature will manage convening, nor how they will manage transparency and public engagement. I for one really believe there's a need to have expanded access to the public hearings, committee meetings and floor debates. It just doesn't feel like there was enough engagement or robust engagement during the recent events held over Zoom. With chairs in full control of the virtual sessions and managing the technology and discussion, it's become routine for folks to make their statement, then there's some questioning from the "prime players", but that's it. There's no legislators challenging testimony, seeking more detail or adding additional insights or historical facts.

Fingers crossed the leaders are working on something innovative and transparent that will allow all parties to discuss heated issues that we all know the legislature will need to tackle in 2021. A BIG one being the HUGE deficit and Connecticut's next two-year budget. Hang on, it's going to get messy for sure.
 
Municipal Roundup - Local Districts and State See Football Protests Increase

By: Ryan Bingham

There was a big push this week by thousands of students, coaches and parents who are pushing to be able to play football this season. More than a thousand high school football players, coaches, parents and a number of state lawmakers swarmed the front steps of the state Capitol building on Wednesday in protest of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference's decision to cancel full contact football games this fall, urging Gov. Ned Lamont and the state Department of Public Health to support reinstating a season. 

The CIAC announced its decision to cancel full contact football games this fall last Friday, after the State Department of Public Health advised against playing high-risk sports. The DPH initially told the CIAC of its stance on high-risk sports in mid-August, and while the CIAC had hopped to find a joint agreement with the DPH regarding football, the department reiterated that it was unlikely to change its stance.

Over the week, there were several legislators that signed on to letter that urged the Governor to work with the CIAC to find a way to play football safely. 

This all shows how loud and influential a group of concerned people can be in creating traction on certain issues. We saw this similarly played out during the Phase I reopening back in May when hairstylists gathered quickly in large numbers and pushed back on the Governor asking him to reconsider reopening salons. He ended up giving them another two weeks to prepare reopening. 


CT Agency Corner - Packaging Waste and Other EPR Programs Evaluated by new DEEP Panel 
by Mike Johnson 

The state kicked off it's inaugural meeting of the CT Sustainable Materials Management Committee this week and set its sights on addressing how to increase the trash diversion rate with possible product stewardship program expansion.
These programs, otherwise known as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), are the target in particular of town and city officials looking to dramatically reduce their overall waste costs. Other programs being considered include pay-as-you-throw models, new stewardship programs for tires and glass and some other options being addressed around the country in light of the reduced value of materials in the recycling world. 
Big Takeaways
-The meetings are going to take place every three weeks and the committee is largely made up of mayors and recycling coordinators. 
-Recommendations will be finalized by January 1st so this one will be critically important to follow.
-Subcommittee groups will be determined by mid-September for the group.
What Materials Might be Included in Evaluating EPR
EPR is a major priority for municipalities - 45.9% of towns believe EPR should be apart of making recycling "more equitable" over the cost of diverting waste.
Bottle bill revisions very much on the table for recommendations and specifically packaging will be discussed.
Of those most desired for EPR: Tires, Household hazardous waste and propane tanks. Packaging waste was also very high at 37.84%.
Website with Materials 

For more information on the progress of this work group please let us know or click here to see their slides and other materials.